(a/n): Apology time.It's been way too long since I updated this and I can't tell you all how sorry I am about that. I could list a bunch of reasons why it took me so damn long, citing a hectic personal life and all that, but the real truth of the matter is that while, yes, there is only so much time I can devote to my writings, an utter lack of inspiration and one of the most severe cases of writers block I have ever encountered attacked me with fervor over these past few months. This chapter has been pure hell for me. It's undergone several rewrites and is only being posted now because I absolutely refused to try and tweak it any more. I was driving myself insane with all my fretting.

To My Reviewers:

Shamira: ::faints:: ::picks herself off the floor and points, taken aback:: You're alive! We're BOTH alive! Isn't this cool? LOL. Seriously though, bounced myself right out of my seat when I saw that you'd reviewed – I totally had not been expecting that, but it made my morning nonetheless. And about not reviewing TF in like forever—I'll try to be better. I have been reading to catch up when I get the time, but haven't had the opportunity yet to really sit down and do a good review. But hopefully since I've posted this thing finally, I'll have more time to keep up with the fics I love. And The Fallout remains one of my very favorites :o). Thank you SO MUCH for reviewing!! I missed you! :D

Alleycat: peeks out Okay, so, like, um….. I'M SORRY!!!! ::cries:: Making you wait this long and forcing you to submit 4 reviews, one even asking if I had met with an unfortunate end, was totally unforgivable. I beg for your forgiveness, and promise (on my cat's life. The one I actually like too) that I will NEVER make you wait 4 months for an update again. So, just, you know, read on and I hope it meets with your approval. Sincerely, Loke, the Ashamed One. (So, what do you think? Sufficient groveling or what? LOL. Let me know if not :P)

Girlfearless: Wow, you know what's funny? When you reviewed this chapter, we barley knew each other. Sure we reviewed mutually and whatnot, but now we've gotten to know each other a lot better. And without getting totally sentimental and sappy (I'm so not that kind of person), I just wanted to thank you in this space for helping me find my footing again when I'd run to you with all my little freak-outs, and for totally letting me vent off you with all my rants. You rock, girl. Thanks a million :o) --Loke

Bushlaboo: Twinnie (aw, come on, I had to do it once! LOL)—okay, Marian, or Mo 'cause its just plain easier to type when I'm in a hurry like now :P, thank you so, so much for what you said regarding my original characters. I love to write original stories as well so to hear that you appreciate my OCs is really awesome. And also, everything I said to Christy up there, it totally goes for you, too. You've been such an enormous help to me and I'm so grateful that you took the time to give me those history lessons, lol. Also, thank you for having so much in common with me—LOL! It was so cool to find out how many viewpoints we share. You're the best, Twinnie! (Okay, so I used it twice. Sue me.) :D

Cindy Ryan: Thank you so much for the review! :)

Abhi: Thank you!

And, to all the other readers out there who have remained patient with me (alleycat, I still count you as patient, don't worry. I mean, you didn't hunt me down and kick my ass, right? I think that qualifies as patient.), thank you so much for hanging with me here, and for waiting out my inexcusable absence. You all rock my socks, I swear! :D

And now, without further ado:

Somewhere in Between


Chapter Twelve: shake and shiver


Emily's heart stopped. Her mind stopped. Hell, even her breathing stopped. Everything. Just. Stopped.

Everything except for his hands.

And with every ounce of will power she possessed, Emily tried not to shudder at the feel of his fingers dragging a path down her neck, of them curling around unruly hair and sweeping it to the side, at the sudden explosion of his warm breath against the naked column of her throat. Mother of God she tried.

But she failed. Miserably.

And the sickened knot in her gut only seemed to get heavier with every second that ticked sluggishly away, with every ghostly pass of Lorenzo's fingertips over the bare skin of her arm… down the curve of her spine…

This isn't right, her mind told her—no screamed at her. She should move. She should do something—anything! But a cold, paralyzing fist of shock had seized her utterly and all Emily could do was stand there. She'd pushed, defied, and goaded this one moment to fruition—it was all she could think. She'd been the headstrong fool she always was, and had done just the opposite of what Jason would have wanted her to do: she relentlessly tested the boundaries of a man she knew nothing of—nothing except just how far he'd go to further his own ends. What did she expect would happen? Emily didn't know, but, still, foolishly, she couldn't help the stricken voice in her mind that screamed 'not this!'.

Rage, threats on her life, on the lives of those she loved—that's what she had expected. But this… this hadn't come into her thinking in any way and as Emily felt what could only have been the tickle of his beard on her neck, she was all of a sudden confronted painfully with the sheer vastness of her own naivety. Her breathing quickened as Fate seemed to narrow the path before her, darkening it inch by inch as all outcomes for this moment—save the most terrifying one she could imagine—slowly fell away. And through her mind flashed agonizing images of Elizabeth's face in that broom closet so many years ago, of the immobilizing horror that gaped back her as her friend uttered those mind-bending words… he raped me…

Emily's eyes welled in spite of her best efforts to keep the tears at bay, her throat closing off painfully. Was that what awaited her now? When she finally got back to her family… to Jason, would that look—wounded, broken, destroyed—be what they saw…what he saw? Was that her fate? To be shoved head first into a never-ending torrent of sorrowful glances and knowing, pitying stares?

Inwardly, her stomach churned at the idea and she rebelled violently against it. No! I won't be his victim. He doesn't have the right. He has no power here. All you have to do is move, Emily, just—

All thought fled from her as Lorenzo's arm encircled her waist, a palm flattened against the taut surface of her abdomen shutting out the last, precious breath of space between them as he drew her body against his.


He'd expected her to move. To rip away from him and recoil in disgust… but she hadn't. No, instead he felt her pulse race beneath his fingertips, and then a ragged shudder of fear—what else could it have been?—echo through her slight body before she went perfectly still. Like a possum playing dead. And, dimly, Lorenzo realized he should have used that as cause to step away from her and from this twisted ploy.

But he couldn't.

Because, see, it seemed the arms dealer had discovered a rather unexpected byproduct of his attempt at cerebral warfare—his own game had fallen in upon him. And he couldn't help but think he should have seen this coming, preposterous a notion as it was.

See, Lorenzo was no fool. He knew all the ways in which a woman could be manipulated, bent to his will and made to conform. He knew that words and sweet promises, quiet and deceptively genuine, worked for some, while a stern and vicious tongue that issued forth promises of a different sort proved quelling for others. But there also was another method, one as old as time itself. And putting it to use could be tricky. Play it just right, and in your hands you'd have a woman who was precisely the right amount of obedient. Come on too strong and you may terrify your mark into actually believing that you harbor malicious intent. But sway too much the other way, overcompensate, and your plan-of-attack loses bite, and you run the risk of falling into unfavorable territory—of being labeled a letch or a pig by an especially spunky woman. All in all it was a terribly risky game. But Lorenzo was out of options when it came to Emily. He'd tried everything else and defiance had slapped him cold across the face at every turn. So, in a moment of pure insanity, Lorenzo allowed anger, frustration, and plain loss of good sense to drive him forward on shaky and uncertain ground. And the result he was met with proved most disturbing of all.

The trap he'd set for Emily, the tiny brunette that was so close he could smell her—a soft, fragrant lingering of roses and vanilla—had ensnared him as well. The invasive presence of his body behind hers, the feeling of his hands buried in the liquid silk of her hair as he uncovered her ivory skin, the undisguised hitch to her breathing when his seeking fingers first touched her—he liked it. More than liked it.

The discovery stirred something in him, a sudden tightening of his gut. His aim had been to affect her, to remove her annoying confidence, and what had happened instead? Lorenzo found his world narrowing, melting away at the edges as all thoughts of intimidation faded into a suddenly vicious and blinding need to sink into her, into her presence, into the true and honest warmth that thrummed with life just under his fingertips.

Time stilled, and he forgot where he was. He couldn't hear and he couldn't see. All that mattered was touch, feeling his way through the dark curtain that had been lowered between him and precious reasoning, between him and sanity, it seemed. A hand brushed its way down her side, winding artfully around her form as he dragged her backward. When she connected with him, the curved plain of her back pressed against his chest and held there by a flattened hand, the girl shuddered within the halo of his arms, deep and stirring. And Lorenzo's eyes slipped closed as he savored the feel.


And when she felt the solid warmth of his chest pressed tightly against her back, it proved sobering. Yes, Alcazar did have power, oodles of it evidently. But this was different. This was more than a show of that power or a play for it… or something else. This went beyond trying to prove a point or the simple sending of a message. This was…


Utter and complete bullshit.

Emily rolled the private declaration around in her head as all former shock melted clear away, making room for the purest surge of anger she'd felt since turning that pretty little vase to dust.

She had never, in all her life, yielded to someone else's whims just because the outlook for her was bleak, and she sure as hell wasn't going to start now. She had no idea what it would get her in the end, or even if it would make a damn bit a difference, but she'd be tagged and bagged before she ever let… whatever this was, just happen. It—she—was clearly a game to him. But here was a little piece of information Emily hoped he choked on: she wasn't gonna play.

No freakin' way.

Steeling her nerves and stroking down the seriously pissed-off beast within, Emily went against her immediate impulse reaction of embedding her elbow in his gut, and leaned back into Lorenzo, instead, her jaw clenched so tightly it made her teeth hurt. Turning her face toward his, she noted the surprised hitch to his breath and savored it. Stupid jerk thought he'd get her flustered, play the sex card, invade her personal space, and intimidate her into being the perfect little captive. Well, he'd almost succeeded at it, too. But everybody knows 'almost' doesn't count.

Now was no exception.

"Get your hands off me."


(This segment is operating under the idea that cops aren't allowed to give classified case information to civilians. You know, like in the real world. ::rollseyes::)

"So," a righteously ticked Nikolas said to Police Commissioner Mac Scorpio. "What you're saying is that you do know something, but that you can't tell us what that something is? Is that what I'm hearing?"

Mac lowered his head and pressed a little deeper into the confines of his desk chair. He really, really didn't care for this part of the job.

Did they know more about the kidnapping? Yes. Hell yes.

Contrary to popular opinion, the department wasn't completely overrun with, loud-mouthed, fame-seeking, pompous assholes like Scott Baldwin. There actually were hard-working, dedicated and competent people employed by the PCPD. And those men had, indeed, done their duty and constructed a rather sound time-frame of events for the kidnapping/shooting, as well as unearthed a set of narrowed leads for parties involved, or potential parties involved, as it was.

But could he tell these two young men that? No. Hell no.

Not that he didn't want to, because he sort of did. But department procedure was an obstinate bitch, and he was forced to dole out cookie-cutter placations and department issue smiles instead of cold facts, no matter how much he wished otherwise. And looking at Spencer and Cassadine really made him wish otherwise, even if ever fiber of his cop being told him that the first place they'd go with any acquired information would be straight to Sonny Corinthos' doorstep. Oddly enough, in this instance, that didn't really bother him too much. This was, after all, a case that had tugged seriously on Mac's heart. Emily was a nice girl, despite who her family was, and Mac wanted that nice, sweet, little girl to be back home with said family, even if they were a pack of lying, manipulative back-biters—save Lila. But giving Lucky and Nikolas anymore than what every other aggrieved friend-of-the-victim got was utterly out of the question. It reeked, but that was just how it was. Bureaucracy could be a real pain in the ass.

"I'm sorry you two," Mac said solemnly. "I really am, but I cannot comment on the details of an active investigation. My guys need to be allowed to do their jobs."

"Do their jobs?" Lucky's indignance rebounded off the cramped office's cluttered walls. "If the cops had done their jobs to begin with, it wouldn't have taken them nearly twenty minutes to get to Em's building! Maybe if they'd been a little faster in responding to Sonny's 911 call, they could have gotten a tail on that van before it disappeared completely! If your 'guys' had been 'doing their jobs', Mac, there's a good chance we wouldn't even be here right now."

Mac sighed. True, response time had been less than desirable, but that was strictly a mechanical error; the department's radio systems were ancient, like most smaller districts' were, and the network had suffered a minor blink at the time of the call. Mac guessed the dispatch snafu made them miss maybe five minutes at very the most. It wasn't as bad as Spencer made it sound, but it still wasn't good. Not by any means.

"I realize that there was a delay in dispersing pursuit units and I addressed this during the press conference, but—"

"You mean you covered it up," Lucky sniped.

Lucky may have held a heavy dislike for the police force of Port Charles, courtesy of his father, but right now it was purely his anger and frustration of being kept out of the loop talking, and Mac was aware of that. Regardless of how it came out, Mac knew Lucky wasn't launching a personal attack, and that's why Mac swallowed his first reaction, and, instead, took a deep, calming breath. "You know what, Lucky? We could sit here while you hurl criticisms at me and this department all day long, we really could. But it's not going to change the fact that I cannot, no matter how much you may want me to, divulge information pertaining to the case. Have we made headway since last night? Yes. Can I share any of those details with you and your brother? Unfortunately, no, I can't do that. And even when I can further brief Emily's family, I'm sorry, but you two won't be included in that."

Nikolas bristled at this. "What do you mean we won't be included? We're her friends, Mac; we want to know what's going on."

"I know you do. Believe me, I know. But you said it yourself, Nikolas. You're her friends, not her family."

Lucky gawped at him like he'd just stabbed the boy in the heart. "Like hell we're not her family! She means more to us than you could ever know. We have a right to—"

Mac held up a hand and silenced Lucky's tirade. "Actually, Lucky, you don't have the right. Not here." At the identical looks of barely suppressed rage that passed across the faces of Laura's boys, Mac sighed. He hadn't always been so nice to them when either had managed to land in one of his holding cells or interrogation rooms, but they were good kids at their core. Good kids who were both very worried about someone they loved a great deal. He could definitely sympathize with the desperation they felt. Bracing himself with another deep breath, Mac looked gravely between the two.

"Look," he said heavily. "I must have already said this about a million times today, but we are doing everything in our power to find her, guys. I have every available presence in the department attached to this. I'm working them round the clock. And until Emily is found—and she will be—and her kidnapper brought to justice that, regrettably, is all I can offer you two. I am genuinely sorry, but as civilians and non-family members, I'm just not allowed to give you anything else. My hands are tied. In all honesty, we shouldn't even be having this conversation right now."

He hadn't expected his speech to be well received. And it wasn't.

With a sneer, Lucky got to his feet. "Then, by all means, Commish, we won't keep you any longer." Lucky put a hand on Nikolas' shoulder, who, in Mac's opinion looked the worse for wear between the two. "Come on, Nik," Lucky said, eyes dead set on Mac. "Let's get the hell out of here. We should have known better than to think that anything the cops had to say was worth a damn. It never is."

Without much hesitation, Nikolas rose and followed his brother stoically out of Mac's office.

Mac sighed and leaned back into his chair with closed eyes. He needed a damn vacation.


The door to Mac's office had barely closed before Lucky let loose the Luke-like string of expletives.

Too tired, defeated, and just plain worried to even bother feigning surprise, Nikolas just sighed at his younger brother's outburst and ignored the shocked faces that dotted the squad room. Lucky would always be Lucky, and right now that Lucky was just as frustrated as he was. Nikolas couldn't blame the guy for cursing a blue-streak in public. Hell, if thought it'd do anything, Nikolas would be letting the curses fly himself—and he knew way more than Lucky did. Being multi-lingual was good for more than just foreign business dealings and hob-knobbing with the aristocratic elite.

"Well that was a big goddamn waste of time, wasn't it?" Lucky all but growled, still trying to calm himself down. Usually—well, recently—he'd been a little better at keeping his cool on the day to day. But this wasn't exactly the day to day. As he figured, he was sort of allowed, and was glad his brother seemed to agree, or at least be keeping his opinions to himself. They were both so stretched… mothering each other right now might not be all that well received, or render the most… agreeable outcome. It wasn't what Liz and… Emily—Lucky's gut plummeted viciously at just the thought of her—would call 'socially acceptable behavior', but they were guys, and they were stupid like that.

"It certainly didn't get us anywhere," Nikolas said, leaning his weight against the wall behind them.

"Oh, sure it did," Lucky huffed, running a hand through his already mussed head of hair, not that it was ever anything but. "It got us out from underfoot." He threw an arched eyebrow his brother's way. "You do realize that was the reason for this worthless trip, don't you? Sonny's just humoring us so we don't feel useless while he's out doing the real work." Lucky shook his head and slumped against the wall next to Nikolas. "It's pathetic, man. Straight-up pathetic. He's treating us like kids."

And Nikolas knew that was the truth. He knew it and he hated it, but what other choice were they left with? It may have killed the Cassadine in him to take orders and run around on inconsequential missions like an errand boy, but if it meant they could stay in the know when it came to Sonny's search for Emily, then Nikolas, Russian royalty or not, would do whatever it took.

"Well, Lucky," Nikolas said, pushing off the wall and righting himself. The time for self-pitying was far passed. They had to play the hand they were dealt, simple as that. "I know it's not as glamorous as what Andy Venetti and Stan are doing right now, but in light of our… conversation with Mac, I'd say that Sonny is not only our best option, but that he's also our only option. Unless of course you'd like to wait around here for more of what Mac's got to offer us…"

"Hell no," Lucky fired back, pushing off the wall at Nikolas's side and forcing the defeat out of his straight-backed stance. "I'm starting to wish I'd avoided the first round altogether. I think Elizabeth had the right idea."

"Speaking of which," Nikolas said, mention of the small brunette reminding him that the poor thing had been waiting for them all by herself in the bowels of this godforsaken building for nearly twenty-five minutes. "We better go tell her we're done; she's probably losing her mind by now."

Lucky nodded enthusiastically. "Good, I can't wait to get the hell out of this place. I swear it gives me the hives." He hiked up his sleeve and offered up his forearm as evidence, scratching at what indeed was a red patch. "See. What the hell is that? I didn't have that earlier."

Nikolas, miraculously, managed a laugh. "It's called anxiety, Lucky. It has funny ways of manifesting itself sometimes, and, considering how things are right now, I'm surprised we aren't both covered in welts."

Lucky shoved his shirt sleeve back down with a grimace. "Well, whatever it is, I want to get far away from it. Why don't you go pull the car out of the lot, I'll grab Liz and we'll meet you at the front."

Nikolas nodded and left. Lucky headed off in the opposite direction.


For Elizabeth, it seemed the world had stopped turning. The only thing that existed was a small, maniacal voice that rattled on and on in her head, and the questions it asked that made her stomach clench and her vision blur.

You ignored what your gut said and played right into his hands, didn't you, Lizzie?

Didn't you?

No, no, no, no, no, NO. This… It… couldn't be right. The information from the cops, they just had to be mistaken. There had to have been someone else, another factor, and another way the code was obtained. There just…had to be. For the sake of everything right and true in her universe, what she was thinking, where she was allowing her mind to wander, to even consider, it all had to be wrong.

She clenched her eyes closed and prayed to God it was.

Ric—her husband, he was a good man. Not without his flaws, his demons, but… he would never do…

Elizabeth took a deep breath to stave off a gag. God, she couldn't even think it without becoming ill. That had to count for something. It had to. Her husband couldn't do this to her… to Emily.

At her friends name hot tears welled in Elizabeth's eyes and her throat seized shut.

No, Ric knew how much Emily meant to her, how much she loved her. A few months ago she may have believed something like this of him, but Ric said it himself: His feud with Sonny was over. Dead. He was moving past it. Trying to pick up the pieces again. And even with the miscarriage…

At this, a sickening thought rolled through Elizabeth's mind. What if that's it? What if Ric still blames Sonny for the… baby? Elizabeth skimmed a hand over her stomach, protective fingers splaying out over where her child would have been growing if it hadn't been for that horrible night. What…what if Ric lied and he wasn't trying to let his war with Sonny go? What if this, if Emily, was his… revenge?

A hand landed on her shoulder and Elizabeth, ripped brutally from her thoughts, nearly shot through the roof. Heart racing, mind a frantic jumble, she looked up and saw Lucky standing beside her, seeming alarmed.

"Whoa, calm down," he said, palms out as he inched closer. "It's just me. I didn't mean to scare you."

"You didn't," she denied breathlessly.

Lucky's brows furled. "Uh… yeah, I did."

"No, I was just… you surprised me that's all."

"Liz, if you'd jumped any higher I'd be scraping you off the ceiling." He placed a hand on her arm. "Are you okay?"

Okay?, she snapped silently. Am I okay?! Um, NO! I was deep in thought trying to convince myself that my husband didn't hand my best friend over to psychotic killers on a silver platter last night. No, Lucky, I'm a lot of things right now, okay ain't one of them.

But, somehow, that didn't sound like an acceptable response, so, instead, Elizabeth looked Lucky straight in his concerned eyes and fibbed her butt off. She felt bad about lying, but she didn't see any other option. The things in her head right now were totally off-the-mark speculation, but if she so much as breathed a word of her… suspicions to Lucky or Nikolas, they would take it right to Sonny and Jason. And that… No, she thought resolutely. This was all still so new, so outrageous; she couldn't let that happen… not without knowing more.

"It's just this place," she answered him; careful to make her words and tone just the right amount of shaken. Not exactly a challenge. "Being here brought back memories of last time. I thought I could handle it, but…"

As she trailed, strong arms came around her as they had thousands of times before in their past. Lucky held her close, his chin rested on the top of her head. Elizabeth couldn't help but lean into his warmth, drawing comfort from him, even if he had no idea for what at the moment.

"It's gonna be okay, Liz," he whispered. "Emily came home then and she'll come home now. We won't rest until she does. I swear we'll find who took her. Find them and make them pay."

Lucky's voice took on a bitter, determined tone and Elizabeth flinched. Find them and make them pay. Instinctively, she hugged Lucky closer. Oh, God, how could this actually be happening?

"Hey," he said, noticing the sudden tightening of her arms around him. "Are you okay?"

Elizabeth reluctantly pulled back and had every intention of forcing a weak smile to put Lucky at ease, but immediately lost heart to do so when she looked in Lucky's eyes. Soft brown orbs meeting hers with such concern and love, it was all she could do not to crumble right there. She closed her eyes and sighed. "I want to go home, Lucky. Please just take me home."

Lucky looked confused. "But I thought you wanted to come with us to Sonny's?"

Liz shook her head in protest, arms now wrapped around herself. She knew how strange her behavior was and completely weird her sudden change of mind must have seemed to him, but she couldn't help it. She couldn't go to Sonny's now. Not with all these… thoughts rolling around her head. There'd be no possible way she could look Sonny and—oh, God—Jason in the eye believing that her husband may have somehow contributed to this catastrophe. No, what she needed was to go home. She needed to see Ric, to try and figure things out and find some way to make this all just a really horrible coincidence. She had no idea how she'd even go about it, but she had to do something. This, it just couldn't be right. The cops had to be mistaken, and the voice in her mind had to be just a cruel apparition. All she had to do was go home, lay eyes on her husband, the man that loved her with everything he was, and then all of this ugliness would go away and she'd be able to forget ever entertaining such ridiculous ideas and focus instead on getting Emily home so that everything could go back to the way it was yesterday.

Life would find normal again.

And all she'd have to do was go home. Just go home and see her husband.

Forcing herself to draw confidence, however shaky, from the idea, she looked up at Lucky. "Take me home."


Sonny hung back a little and let Jason lead the way up to Ric's door. Truthfully, for what was coming, Sonny's wasn't in that much of a hurry. Let him haul ass to a repeat of every other visit they'd ever paid Ric. This was Jason's part of the mission, not his.

Jason assaulted the front door with a raucous knock and not ten seconds later, his brother, shithead on the reform, or so-called reform, as it were, tugged it open. Smiling in a way that always managed to irk something deep inside Sonny—he wasn't sure what, exactly—Ric leaned into the doorjamb.

"Jason. Sonny. What a pleasant surprise."

As anticipated, Jason didn't waste time on pleasantries (when had he ever?) or on formal invites; arm in a sling and all, he forced his way past Ric and into the house's living room. Sonny waited in the doorway. He promised Jason this, that didn't mean he had to participate.

"Well, come right in. I do so love it when mobsters invade my home."

"Just shut up, Ric," Jason snapped. "I don't have time for your crap right now."

"Is this sounding familiar to anyone else? Because I could have sworn that we just had this conversation."

If not for the look of murder tugging at Jason's face, Sonny may have entertained the idea, however brief, of laughing out loud. His brother was a real piece of work. As Sonny figured, Ric either had quite a pair, or he was the dumbest man to walk the earth. Chances are it was a concoction of both, with a whole lot of Crazy thrown into the mix to even things out.

"Lansing…" Gravely and full of warning.

With another eerie smile, kinda like he was in on some joke no one else knew about, Ric relented and did a palms-out gesture of appeasement.

"Okay, okay," he said. "What is that I can do for you Jason?"

"You were an employee of Luis Alcazar, right?"

Now, baby brother's reaction to this question was interesting. To say the least. His back went stiff as a board and the derisive air that'd been hanging around him dissipated in the blink of an eye.

"For a time," came his taut reply.

"Then you're familiar with the Alcazars, where they had their base of operations?"

The arrogance seemed to have been bleached right from Ric's bones. Now the man nearly shivered with unease. "The work I did for Luis was mainly based out my offices. I hardly ever set foot in the compounds. Caracas or otherwise."


Ric flinched like someone had just poked him in the ass with a skewer; Jason tilted his head and absorbed the reaction. This was what Jason did. He studied people. And he could spot a lie with his eyes closed. Hell, the man could feel deception. It was an uncanny sense. And it almost always proved an accurate one, too. And maybe that was why Sonny stood a little straighter in the doorway, and why he found himself paying close attention to what was unraveling before him.

"There's a compound in Caracas?" Jason asked again. "A main one?"

"I never said that."

Jason's jaw clenched and Sonny could easily recognize the amount of control his enforcer was exercising in this moment. "No, but the way you said it you made it sound like Caracas was more important than the other places. Is that were their hub is?"

"I—you shouldn't be asking me this," Ric stumbled. "I was only employed by them for a short while, my knowledge is limi—"

Apparently, control decided to take a vacation. Jason closed the gap between himself and Ric in such a way that the lawyer's words to died in his throat. "Remember when I said I didn't have time for your crap? It still applies. Alcazar just did something to me that he really should not have done and it's become my job to hunt him down and make him pay. But the only way I can do my job, Ric, is if you tell me everything you know about that family, and if you do it right now. Before you end up hurting yourself."

Ric's eyes bulged indignantly. "Are you threatening me?" But silence and a fierce glare were the only answers he received. Ric tilted his head in Sonny's direction perhaps for help, but, finding his brother's attention resolutely focused on the floor, pivoted his stare back to Jason, disbelief glinting in his eyes. "You're insane. I want you out of my house. Both of you."

"It doesn't work like that."

"The hell it doesn't!" Ric shrieked. "This is my house. You don't come into my house and start throwing around threats for the second time in two days, Morgan!"

"I just did."

Ric blew out an incensed sigh and looked to Sonny. "Are you seriously going to just stand there while your goon bullies me in my own home? I thought we were moving past this, Sonny!"

Sonny shrugged, knowing he had to appear indifferent. Siding with Ric wasn't an option now. And beside, he wasn't even sure he wanted to, not with how this was beginning to feel. "He's just asking some questions, Ric. No need to get so riled-up."

"He's being hostile!"

"Yeah, well, Jason's tactics can take some getting used to. I'm sure he doesn't really mean it, if that helps any."

Ric clenched his eyes closed. "I can't believe I ever thought you could change," he said softly, more a declaration himself than anything else. "It's still the same damn story. Sonny and his thugs get to do whatever the hell they want so long as it benefits them. Never mind who they have to bulldoze in the process, right?" Ric paused and locked eyes with his brother, ravenous hatred, something Sonny had refused to see until now, pouring from his stare. And in this moment Sony knew Jason had been right. Ric wasn't interested in peace. And there was a good chance he never was. "You're still the same selfish bastard you always were." He pointed at the door. "I want you out. Now!"

Brother or not, truce or not—though that did seem an idea destined to wither on the vine now—Sonny didn't take well to being ordered around. He took a step into the house. "First off, we're not going anywhere until you tell us what you know. And secondly, you don't get to pass judgments on me, baby brother. Especially considering that all you've done since you got to this town is 'bulldoze' people to get to me. You're hardly one to talk."

"Those were mistakes!" Ric roared back. "Errors in judgment. But with you it's a permanent state of mind. Take what you want, to hell with the consequences."

Anger began a slow coil in Sonny's gut. Ric was right; this was beginning to sound familiar. Sickeningly so. "I'm not the one making this about me, Ric. We're here to help a little girl, not hurt anyone."

"Oh, that's right," Ric cackled. "I forgot. Sonny, the Noble One, two steps away from being canonized. Heaven forbid I point out that you're standing in my home, using the silent promise of a broken neck to force me into cooperating with you, when, by the way, you don't even have solid proof that Lorenzo Alcazar is behind Emily's kidnapping at all!"

Sonny's gaze darkened. "Well, I guess there are a few other directions we could be looking in."

The insinuation, vague as it was, found its target. Ric faltered a moment and then narrowed his eyes. "That is a ridiculous accusation and you know it."

"I don't know anything, Ric, not for sure anyway. As you just pointed out."

Ric shook his head miserably. "No, Sonny. You've got this one backwards. You're the amoral gangster who treats people like pieces on a chess boards. You're the disgusting excuse for a human being who goes on killing and taking what he thinks belongs to him without any sense of conscience or remorse! You are the one who—"

"Do you even hear yourself?" It was Jason's voce this time. Busting open the air with the efficiency of a lightening bolt. Ric wheeled around. "This isn't about you or Sonny, or how much you hate him, Ric! This is about Emily!"

Ric swallowed hard, averting his gaze. "What happened to your sister is… unfortunate, but there's nothing I—"

"Have you ever talked to her?" Voice deceptively calm, Jason's eyes took on a new sheen of quiet desperation. "I mean, really talked to her. Have you?"

"I—well, no. We've met briefly, but…"

Jason nodded. "Then you missed out, because she's… she's incredible. She really listens, you know? She doesn't just pretend to care about what you say, she actually does. And it's because she has this enormous heart. She loves so hard and she trusts, Ric. She trusts that in the end people will do what's right, not what's easy. I know it's misguided and naive but that's part of what makes her who she is. She believes in the good in people. And you know what? Despite everything you've done to Sonny and to our family she has never said one ill word against you." With a piercing stare, Jason pinned an ill looking Ric to his spot. "She even went as far to say once that you're not a bad person and that you didn't really want to cause the destruction that you did, but that your past messed you up."

Ric started shake his head in protest, a pained look on his face, but Jason pushed on.

"I've had to sit across from my baby sister, Ric, and listen to her tell me that, underneath everything, she didn't think you were really out to hurt anybody. And all that coming from a girl who never even met you. But then that's Emily. She gives people the benefit of the doubt and she puts herself in their shoes because she wants to understand them, not condemn them. She wanted to understand you, Ric, even after all the crap you pulled. And now you are in the position to help her, a girl who could have easily hated you but who doesn't, a girl who actually pleaded your case to me, and you won't. How the hell can you live with yourself!"

Ric stumbled over his words. "I… I don't know what you think I could possibly do—"

"Give us the locations of all the Alcazar properties and show us the compounds."

Ric's eyes bugged. "You want me to actually take you to them?"

Jason nodded.

"I—no. Alcazar will kill me. I can't do th—"

"You said you wanted peace with Sonny, Ric. Prove it. Help us find her."

Silence fell over the Lansing house for a long, long moment. Ric, looking weighed down by some unbearable burden, looked at his brother, and then cast his eyes to the floor. He squeezed them shut and let out a shaky, one would almost think desperate, breath. To Sonny something about the moment felt final. Like in that instant a clear choice had been set in front of his brother. And he'd made it. "I'm… I'm sorry," Ric whispered. "But I have a wife to think about. I can't get in the middle of some mob war. I… I can't do what you're asking."

Sonny saw Jason's jaw give a dangerous twitch before it happened, but all the foresight in the world couldn't have stopped what went down next—Sonny doubted if even God himself could have. Jason reached around to the back of his jeans and pulled his spare gun, and had it cocked and leveled at Ric's head before the other man could even blink. Even after all these years Sonny still marveled at how fast the transformation between Jason, the caring man who was like a brother to him, and Jason, the killer-on-command, could take place. It was a startling thing to witness.

"See, here's the thing, Ric." Jason's voice was calm, cold, and completely detached—a true hallmark of his breed. "I'm not asking."

"What is going on here?"

All three men pivoted toward the voice and the open door.

It was Elizabeth.



Next Chapter: Elizabeth struggles with a horrible truth and a shocking discovery, Sonny receives a message, AJ makes an appearance, and Emily fights to stay indifferent in the face of an Alcazar family history lesson.

(a/n): Now, don't hate me for how I left it with Emily and Lorenzo. They'll be priority one next chapter. Expect LOTS of them.

So… on the whole, what did you guys think? I've been working with a new technique, more dialogue driven. Did it play okay? Should I go back to how I wrote it before? Can you even notice the difference? LOL. But I will tell you a secret about one of the reasons this chapter was so hard to write. Writing Ric like this is REALLY hard now. I hate making him all evil and slimy again, especially since we're getting Ric redemption in spades on the show. But, oh well. You gotta do what you gotta do, huh? And plus, things could always change down the road… lol. Okay, so that probably won't happen. I have totally sealed this guy's fate. ::sigh::

And don't worry. It WILL NOT take me five months or whatever (I actually lost count now, lol) to update again. I'm already nearly finished with chapter 13 and it seems my writer's block has up and cured itself. So… see you guys soon!

Oh, and before I go, please excuse any really obvious typos or flubs int his chapter. See, I had found a great Beta, but then she went and had a baby (the nerve! Lol) and I was left having to read through my own stuff again, which is never a good idea because I keep reading what should be there instead of is. So that brings me to my last it of business: If you're willing to beta read for me (as in read through my first draft and mark my grammatical and logistical mistakes that I need to correct) please email me or drop me a line my Live Journal. Both addresses are in my profile. Thanks!


P.S. Psst! Hey Mo! You know that bit (the flashback thingy I needed help with), it got cut from this chapter but it WILL be in the next. Thanks bunches for that, too! :D